Once the ball is in the air, there’s no telling what will happen on the pitch. In the 73rd minute, Chattanooga FC held to a very uncomfortable 1-0 lead. New Amsterdam had spent the last 20 minutes dominating possession, with CFC on their heels the entire time. The home team finally got something going on the left wing, and Chattanooga’s wingback James Kasak crossed the ball into forward Brian Bement.
Bement was the main target, but he and his heavily wrapped up arm were knocked out of position after he skied for a header.
The ball instead hurtled to the ground, ready for anyone to claim it if they wanted to. That claimant was none other than attacking midfielder Ian McGrath, who outhustled the goalie for the prize and popped in Chattanooga’s second goal of their 3-0 Legend’s Cup win. For the second time on a balmy Friday night, the Bement-McGrath combo made things happen.
“Ian’s a pure goal-scorer and someone I’ve had a nice partnership with, and that’s he’s someone I can lay the ball off to and I know he’s gonna be there,” Brian Bement said.
Sporting their white Volfsburg kits and playing in front of broadcast and documentary cameras, the Chattanooga Football Club must have felt like a Bundesliga side. The first few minutes of the game were nowhere near as eventful as your average German game though, with neither team scoring or having much in the way of scoring chances. In the 20th minute, striker Brian Bement looked like he might have had a chance to score on the corner kick, driving in to the left on the rebound. However, his shot went high in the sky and far above the woodwork.
In the 30th minute, winger Cutler Coleman crossed a ball into the box from the right wing. It was intended for target-man Brian Bement, who was surrounded by hostile players. He couldn’t really control the ball, so instead he flicked it back with his head as he was knocked to the ground. Attacking midfielder Ian McGrath was positioned behind Bement and was of course in shooting position.
McGrath just needed one touch to control the ball, and then he loaded up for a long-range volley with his powerful right foot. McGrath aimed the ball high and to the right, blasting the ball well past the keeper for CFC’s first goal of the game.
“As a target man, I’m always trying to find guys running forward to lay it off to,” Bement said. “It’s a situation where the ball was in the air and I knew I wasn’t going to score it, so I wanted to lay it off to someone who could.”
It was a great effort against a team that was almost like two teams combined into one. Several New York Cosmos players were starting for New Amsterdam, as their original club is still on hiatus. In addition to this, the team from New York was playing their first match of the tournament, while CFC was playing their second in three days.
No more than a couple minutes after their goal, CFC had to shift from celebrating to dogged defending when New Amsterdam mounted a solid attack. One of their strikers ran through unmarked and got himself a one-on-one with keeper Phil D’Amico. Chattanooga’s veteran keeper used his mitts to get a piece of the ball and Chattanooga avoided a sudden letdown.
“Phil’s been playing great,” coach Fuller said. “The first four weeks were a struggle as he got in shape, but the week before we played Louisville, you could see the light switch come back on and he’s been terrific.”
Chattanooga FC started the second half with a series of spirited forays into the box, but their longballs and crosses found their way into space, but not space occupied by CFC strikers like Bement or Sean Hoffstatter. When New Amsterdam got their good shot in a few minutes later, D’Amico pounced to his left and did a full-extension save to prevent the equalizer.
For the next ten minutes, New Amsterdam controlled the tempo and pace of the game but couldn’t get anything going against defenders like Nick Spielman and a healthier Shaun Russell. Meanwhile, Chattanooga FC moved freely through the midfield whenever they did have possession, but were usually dispossessed whenever they had a chance of creating opportunities in the final third.
“I give the guys a boatload of credit. (Veteran players) Richard (Dixon) and Juan (Hernandez) handle a lot of our fitness stuff, and they’ve such a good job of preparing the guys for these games. We couldn’t be in better physical shape.”
Chattanooga FC finally got their insurance goal in the 73rd minute, and then spent the last 20 or so minutes playing defense 99 percent of the time. But that one percent spent on offense? It was a sweet goal by newcomer Brett Jones. He took the pass in on the counter, dribbled past the defense, and whipped a low ball past the keeper as time expired in stoppage time.
Chattanooga FC will have at least the weekend off to rest before they partake in the next leg of the Legend’s Cup. CFC’s players certainly looked spry playing in front of a loud and supportive home crowd of 2000.
“This is unbelievable, and from what I’ve heard, this is just a portion of what can happen in Chattanooga,” Bement said. “And just listening to this now is unbelievable.”
You can contact the author at Joseph.A.Dycus@gmail.com or on twitter at @joseph_dycus .